The last decade or two have made it painfully apparent that there is a new super-race who regularly gather in secret to create dastardly concoctions the likes of which us sorry mortals could never conceive. Unlike most reptilian illuminati, however, this group meet in quirky places such as treehouses in New Jersey backyards, gingerbread shops in Munchen and sun-dappled punts floating their lazy way down the Cam. They draw charmingly naïve pictures of ducks in waistcoats while plotting their next gambit regarding world domination. Sometimes they all wear tracksuits and play elastics and wonder if post-post-irony is a concept worth pursuing. On a quiet candlelit eve, they might crane their necks to look over the shoulders of lifetime members Mssr Gondry and Ms July and the assembled members of The Arcade Fire to watch as Dave Eggers takes a quiet sip from one of their latest homebrews and nods sagely before pronouncing his verdict:
“Needs more whimsy.”
There’s a bit in Daniel Kitson’s new show where he deprecates the smug arrogance of the person who claims to appreciate the tiny imperfections of daily life – who begs a fondness for the wonky stairs of their home, as opposed to finding them something in need of fixing. It’s a moment in the show that seems vital, since Kitson is exactly this person. He does find meaning in his wonky stairs, and his works in recent years have for me been characterised by just that smug arrogance, dealing as they have with the allure of obsolescence: cassette tapes, lollipop ladies, fireworks, English food.
I never really thought Kitson hit the mark, though. He was a famously misanthropic stand-up who made his name with an inimitable ability to excoriate the targets of his wrath in brilliantly verbose fashion. Then he reinvented himself as an arch-humanist, a teller of modern fables, an observer of life’s less-appreciated moments of tiny wonder. The kind of person who’s three guitar lessons away from calling himself a troubadour. I didn’t buy it.